Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The Holidays are here, and even with the economy the way it is, that means people are celebrating…which, for professional dancers, translates to employment opportunities. Even if you have never worked before, you may already be getting offers for holiday parties and gigs. If you are on the threshold of becoming a working professional dancer, then without a doubt, you’ve been sweating in group and private classes, practicing your butt off at home, dancing with a student troupe and in belly dance show cases, honing your technique and stage presence… and you just bought a fabulous new costume. Well, congratulations, girl, sounds like you’re about ready to go pro- all you need is a gig! Now might be the time for you to start working.

Exactly what do professional dancers know that you don’t? Well, for one thing, they know how to book shows. Whether you’re donating your dancing to a charity event, performing at a private party or auditioning for a restaurant or club job, there’s “technique” involved before you hit the stage as well. The following information will help you book a gig like a seasoned pro… help you to determine the WHO, WHAT,WHERE, WHEN and HOW of your gig.

First off: WHAT TYPE OF EVENT IS IT ? Private party, wedding, birthday, corporate show, Arabic club, holiday festival…etc. Make sure to find out exactly what your gig will be, so you can costume yourself appropriately and plan a set of songs that will reflect the mood.

WHO IS HIRING YOU? Club owner, bride or groom, caterer, event planner…

WHERE? (How far from your house, as well as whether the event is being held at a residence, restaurant, banquet hall, outdoor festival, etc.) *ALSO: Is there a full theatrical stage, raised stage, dance floor, living room, patio or……..???? FIND OUT ABOUT YOUR DANCE AREA!

WHEN? Get specific performance times, and let them know that you are flexible, but cannot stay at the event for hours at their discretion

SOUND SYSTEM : Do you have to bring a boom box ( like for a belly gram situation) or will there be a sound system w/ a deejay? Will you be using a CD or an iPod? Will there be other performers? Do they expect you to dance to a live band? If so- can you rehearse or do a tech check?

NEGOTIATE PAY :Depending on where, when and how long you will be dancing, state your rate, and negotiate your salary. It will behoove you to find out everything possible about the gig before stating a price- keep your price in mind, or even have it written on a piece of paper that you can refer to when on the phone with a prospective client.

DO NOT undercut the “going rate”. If you are not sure what the going rate is in your area, ask another local working dancer, or dance instructor. Start your price a little high, many people expect bit of bargaining. Figure out if it is a tipping situation or not, this will affect the base pay you ask for… and also ask the host or person who hired you if they would like you to stay within your performance area, or if it is fine to dance among the seated guests. Some people consider this acceptable, others think it’s ‘tacky”. DO NOT ask the person hiring you how much they wanted to spend on a dancer until you have stated your price. Everybody wants a “deal”, and will give you a lower figure. Know that it is fairly standard to charge not just for the party or gig, but the length of time it takes to GET you there- think twice about accepting a gig that is far from your home base, unless you know it will be worth your time. And know that pretty much anywhere in the world, the “going rate” for New Years is triple whatever you would regularly charge.

GET DIRECTIONS! If you can’t get directions from the host, call the venue. If you can’t get in touch with the venue, look up the address and driving directions on the internet.

GET CONTACT NUMBERS! Try to get both a cell-phone number as well as the number of the venue itself.

RE-CONFIRM YOUR PERFORMANCE (a week before the show, as well as the day before)

GET A CONTRACT AND DEPOSIT These days, PayPal makes this part so much easier. Set up a PayPal account if you don’t have one already.

DO NOT FEEL “WEIRD” BRINGING ALONG A FRIEND- PREFERABLY MALE : Any “decent” people in this day and age will perfectly understand the concept of personal safety. Tell them it is your ‘driver’. However, it is totally inappropriate for you to be hanging all over your ‘driver’ smooching! Be professional.


SHOW UP ON TIME, READY TO GO (come fully made up and if it’s a private gig with no dressing room fully costumed with a cover-up)

FIND A SECURE PLACE TO KEEP YOUR BELONGINGS- this could be anything from a locked dressing room or office, to a cubby-hole behind the bar or a concierge desk at a hotel or banquet hall. Even if you have to change in the Ladies Room ( and this is a common “dressing room” , believe me) ...or have your "driver" watch them while you perform. DO NOT leave your things there unattended!

LEAVE IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOU PERFORM AND GET PAID (No hanging around, you are an entertainer, not a guest)

BE GRACIOUS, CHEERFUL AND POLITE, but firmly refuse anything you do not want to do…like perform a second time for free!


Food for thought: If you act like a professional dancer, you will be treated like one!

1 comment:

  1. Look, would you just write a book already? The Smart Bellydancer's Guide to Life, or something like that. Honestly, this stuff is pure gold reference material.